Whilst few organisations have employees or workers aged in their 80s, as the vaccine roll out continues apace there will soon come a time when your employees are offered the vaccine. Can you have a policy that states all your employees must have the vaccine?
Tempting as it may be to implement such a policy, you could encounter difficulties unless you can show that being vaccinated against Covid 19 is imperative to your business.
Policies that apply to everyone in your business must be fair and reasonable for all your employees otherwise they may represent indirect discrimination. Indirect discrimination is when a policy (or procedure) disadvantages some employees due to one of the strands of discrimination. Indirect discrimination is allowed if, and only if, you can show that it is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” (Equality Act 2010).
A policy that states all employees must have the Covid 19 vaccination may disadvantage people on the grounds of religion or belief. Some individuals may have religious beliefs that mean they are less likely to take up the vaccine (or other medical interventions) when offered to them. It may also disadvantage some people on the grounds of disability; some health issues may preclude the vaccination.
If your organisation provides care to the vulnerable, for example, it would be perfectly reasonable for you to have a policy that states all your employees must be vaccinated against Covid 19. Your “legitimate aim” is keeping your vulnerable clients safe from Covid 19 and the “proportionate” element is that there is no other reasonable way of achieving your clients’ safety from Covid 19.
But for most other businesses it would be extremely difficult to show that insisting all your staff (existing staff and those you may recruit in the future) are vaccinated against Covid 19 and such a policy may give rise to an Employment Tribunal claim on the grounds of discrimination. Compensation awarded to someone who can show they have been discriminated against is uncapped and could prove to be very expensive.
Of course, you should actively encourage your staff to take the vaccine. If they refuse you will need to understand their grounds for refusal. Dismissing someone (or failing to recruit someone) for refusing to take the vaccine may leave you skating on thin ice unless you have a very good reason for the policy.
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